There’s a story of a family sitting on their porch in a small Texas town on a hot day with little intent on doing anything. I remember watching the video in my organizational behavior class during graduate school. They were all sweating, drinking lemonade, and I am pretty sure playing cards. After a silent moment, one of the family members suggested they go to a cafeteria (fine dining, I know) in Abilene a significant drive away. No one objected. They went. The film then showed them back at home, probably the same lemonade, and all of them still sweating. Soon they realized that no one wanted to go to Abilene in the first place, it was simply a suggestion, but in order to avoid making anyone feel bad, they went.
Ever since viewing that film, I always look for the times in my life when I am “on the road to Abilene”. Here’s a good example, which happens quite regularly in our home. This actually just happened again on Saturday night. I got on my computer in our bedroom to check a few blogs I follow regularly. I had decided I wanted to just be on for a few minutes and then my wife and I would watch a show together. She started to read a book, and I kept consuming information, which is something a lot of us would be considered pros. After an hour, I realized we just showed up in Abilene. I am sure neither one of us wanted to spend that hour that way, but we did. I was in the driver’s seat. I’ve learned that my wife doesn’t interrupt me when I am on the computer, and she shouldn’t have to ask me to get off the laptop. It is my decision. I decide where our “car” is driving, and when we will arrive there. No offense, but Abilene doesn’t sound like more fun than watching an episode of our favorite TV show (hopefully they never stage an episode in Abilene).
Looking back, a number of questions come into my mind:
- · Was reading those blogs how I really wanted to spend my Saturday night? With my new job, I am gone 12-13 hours a day, and do not have the time I had while I was in school to be with the wife and kids. I was definitely on my way to Abilene
- · Who was I putting first? My wife was sitting next to me and instead I was learning about someone/something probably thousands of miles away from me. The relationship with my wife and children should come first.
We need to regularly assess how we are spending our time. Are our actions lining up with our beliefs? If you asked me Saturday night what matters most to me, I would have said my wife, but my actions were obvious. My wife was second place to something of little to no significance.
If we all decided to act in harmony with our beliefs, I think all of us would be more productive and provide more value to those around us than we currently do.
My plan this week is to put my money where my mouth is and act in a way that shows what my priorities really are.